When the people of Britain voted to leave the European Union in June of 2016 they had no idea that it would cause so much harm to themselves and to their country. Their leaders had no idea, either. Two years later, the European Union and the British Parliament cannot agree on the terms of the separation.
As it currently stands, in just about two months (March 29), Britain is scheduled to formally leave its European neighbors and break the agreement they have had since 1973, when the British people voted to join the Union by a vote of 67.2 percent to 32.8 percent.
In 2016, the vote was 51.8 percent to leave and 48.2 percent to stay. The “leavers” represent that portion of the British population who believe in British superiority, don’t like immigrants, and are annoyed at many needless EU regulations. EU ministers can be very officious.
It was a huge surprise when the vote was announced, and the road to leaving has been very difficult. Bitter words have been spoken, political parties have been damaged, and business has been hurt. The British completely underestimated Europe’s belief in the common market.
It is fair to say that Ireland could be hurt substantially if some of the options being discussed are put into law. The DUP conservatives in the North want a “hard border” separating them from the Republic. As members of the British Parliament, they have some influence. But the threat of renewed violence is very real if the Good Friday agreement is weakened. A recent bombing in Derry is a good example.
New leadership of both the Sinn Fein and the DUP seem unable to govern in Northern Ireland. The Assembly set up by the Good Friday agreement has not operated in well over a year, and since Sinn Fein leaders do not participate in the British Parliament, the people they represent have no voice in the Brexit discussions in London.
The situation is very serious.
Special British police units are being trained to protect the Northern Ireland border. The British army has been put on alert and reservists put on notice. If these troops move into Northern Ireland and become active, many say there will be trouble. It should be said that most in Britain do not care a whit about Northern Ireland and a “hard border.” That is especially true about British leaders.
Businesses have been moving out of Northern Ireland and Britain for more than a year. As March 29 looms closer more, more are making their goodbye announcements, as are wealthy families who are moving to France, Belgium, and Switzerland.
What will happen? The most likely first moves will involve the date of March 29. This can be adjusted and most likely will be to avoid a “no deal” exit. The “no deal” option has everyone scared to death. Already many businesses are stockpiling raw materials and other inventory to prevent shortages of hard-to-get goods. Medicine for diabetics is a particular worry.
A second possible outcome is the calling of a second referendum. This possibility seems remote since Prime Minister Theresa May is adamantly opposed to such a move.
No matter the final outcome, British voters will regret their vote to leave their compact with Europe.